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How Can the USA Advance?

Regarding the Thursday. June 26, 2014 World Cup playoff game.

A United States win or tie against Germany automatically sends the team to the knockout stage. But as detailed yesterday on For The Win, things get a little more complicated in the U.S. loses and the Portugal-Ghana game doesn’t end in a tie. The first tiebreaker between the United States and the Portugal-Ghana winner is goal differential and as Nate Scott explained, “the U.S. have a +1 goal difference, two better than Ghana’s -1 and five better than Portugal’s -4.” After that, the next tiebreaker is goals scored.

Rather than trying to work out the math in your head, a Twitter user named Andy Keller made a handy chart that lays out the scenario for every conceivable result on Thursday. The top row lists potential Germany-U.S. scores. The side column lists potential Ghana-Portugal scores. Line them up to find out what happens to the U.S.A. based on 209 different scenarios.

USA Advances depending on a variety of scenarios.  Here are a 209.

USA Advances depending on a variety of scenarios. Here are a 209.

Though the U.S. is still a 76% favorite to advance according to, the scenarios can quickly get frightening with a loss to Germany. One goal could be the difference between World Cup glory and heartbreak. For instance:

If Germany defeats USA 2-1 and Ghana defeats Portugal 2-1, the United States advances. But if Germany defeats USA 2-1 and Ghana defeats Portugal 2-0 (or 3-1 or 4-2), the United States does NOT advance.

This is because the USA leads Ghana by two in goal differential. But the minimum USA loss (by one goal) and minimum Ghana win (by one goal) would leave them even in the standings and in goal differential. Because of that swing, the U.S. can’t afford to lose by more than one goal if Ghana wins. Every goal will count.

If you’re looking for the Cliff’s Notes version of the chart, or an easy-to-remember guide for Thursday, good luck. There are so many permutations if the U.S. loses to Germany. But basically it’s pray for a Portugal-Ghana tie, root for a close Portugal win and hold your breath if Ghana gets the victory.

From Chris Chase of USA Today –


About Author

Mike Slatton is a 2nd generation American youth soccer coach since 1984, and the son of one of the nation's first female licensed youth soccer coaches (Anita Slatton, 1979). He's also a professional soccer scout, a player since 1977, and the father of three adult and teenage children who all play or have played the game. "My job as a youth soccer coach is to develop detail oriented problem solvers who can react quickly under pressure. This relates to life - not just soccer."

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